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Journal: I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas 1

Journal by mcgrew

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
In these modern secular days
With a secular tree with secular lights
And a Santa in a secular sleigh

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular wreath and some secular lights
And some secular mistletoe

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular Santa in a secular sleigh
And a secular HO HO HO!

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
Have a Happy Holiday!
Don't forget the secular eggnog
Just forget just whose birthday...

---

The above is of course sarcasm, but I think that ironically, antitheists might embrace it.

I am offended by the Honda commercials, where toys given to adults when they were children as "holiday gifts" are attempting to sell cars.

There are no "holiday gifts". Only Hebrews and Christians; it's Hanukkah gifts and Christmas presents. and only 1.8% of Americans are Jewish. Damned Japanese! Then I had a second thought -- is there a Japanese holiday where gifts are exchanged?

It turns out that there is a Japanese holiday, this year on the last day of Hanukkah. It's the Emperor's birthday, but gifts are not exchanged; the emperor's palace is open to the public on that day.

Honda ad agency people, you are idiots. 1.8% of Americans are Jewish, 77% identify themselves as Christian. Guess what, morons? You just offended half the Christians in the US while trying to not disenfranchise the less than two percent who are Jewish.

If you're trying to use Christians' second most holy day to further your worship of mammon, you better damned well mention Christ, or risk pissing off half the population.

User Journal

Journal: New Story

Journal by mcgrew

Sundays at noon an old friend has a blues show on a local college radio station, WQNA. Of course, since the blues and booze go so well together, Sunday is my "drink too much" day. So by eight I was too drunk to edit. I put the book down and picked up the notebook and started typing.

It's only started, with only a few more than 600 words so far. The title is "Voyage to Earth". It starts in John's bar five years after arriving at Mars. He's gone to college, learned chemistry, and is brewing the most popular beer on Mars.

Meanwhile, They're going to Earth so Destiny can collect a Nobel in astrophysics for her paradigm-shifting results from her new telescope, John is going along with a shipload of beer to export to Earth ("Earth is buying beer from Mars? Even with the shipping costs? What the hell?"
        "Rich dumbasses trying to be cool. Mars is cool now, I could piss in a can and theyâ(TM)d buy it.").

Tammy is getting an award for her work with drug addicts, not the Nobel and will be accompanying them.

I have no idea how long it will be. It could be a short story or a novel, I don't know yet.

I sent for another copy of Mars, Ho! yesterday. I'm hopeful I'll be able to release it for publication this round, but I doubt it will be on sale in time to buy them for Christmas presents. Bummer.

Saturday I'll post a secular Christmas carol I wrote back in 2005 that almost nobody has seen.

User Journal

Journal: Semiliterate professional writers 7

Journal by mcgrew

This story on Slashgear about net neutrality showed up in Google News this morning. I was appalled.

Not at the story, so far I've only read the first sentence. "Today, President Obama sided with you and I."

What the God damned FUCK?! I don't know what uneducated moron wrote that sentence... wait, I found a byline: Nate Swanner. Nate, you show about a fourth grade reading level. Nate, you uneducated moron, QUIT YOU JOB, go back and get your GED and learn the English language before you present yourself as a "journalist".

And you who run slashgear, have you not thought about just maybe hiring an editor who's spent a semester or two in college?

One more question: how do these rank amateurs wind up in the Google News feed?

Oh, and Nate, for your information, it's "you and ME." Would you say "Today, President Obama sided with I"?

Moron. I hear McDonald's and Wal Mart are hiring.

User Journal

Journal: Wierd... 3

Journal by mcgrew

Before S/N opened, I spent a lot of time commenting at /. Any more, I check messages and read little of /., partly because stories have been showing up at S/N before /. and partly because there are so many more short bus riders at /. Oh, and slashdot's "stupid quotes" annoy the hell out of me.

I hadn't had mod points at /. for years, despite being at karma cap.

So two days ago I had five /. mod points. Today I had fifteen. I guess heavy posters don't get points.

User Journal

Journal: Grommler 4

Journal by mcgrew

This story takes place in a bar on Mars over a century later than "Mars, Ho!". Kudos to slashdot for finally fixing its handling of smart characters.
        âoeJoe? Is that you? You're still tending bar? I thought you'd be retired. How you doin', you old rascal?â
        Joe frowned. âoeSorry, son, I must be getting old, do I know you? And can I get you a drink?â
        âoeIt's Dave, man. Give me a Knolls lager, draft.â
        âoeSorry, Dave, we're sold out of Knolls. We have some Guinness, that's almost as good. But I'm sorry, but I still don't know who you are. Memory ain't as good as it used to be.â
        âoeDave Rayfield, Joe. Of course it's been a lot longer for you than me. Yeah, Guinness will do.â
        âoeDave Rayfield? I haven't seen him since I was twenty. You his grandson?â he asked, pouring the beer.
        âoeNo, Joe, I'm Dave. Same Dave you knew back then.â
        âoeBut you're so young!â
        âoeIt was the trip. I piloted the science expedition to Grommler while you were throwing rocks from the asteroid belt at Mars.â
        âoeThe terraforming is still going on here. I'm a little old for space hopping. Hell, if I spent any more time traveling through space I'd live forever. But how the hell did you stay a damned kid?â
        âoeSame way you're not dead at a hundred twenty five. Time dilation. Most Earthians die before they're ninety five, but speed stretches time. You'd be dead by now if you hadn't been a spaceship captain. It's been a hundred years since you've seen me, but it's only been ten years since I've seen you.â
        âoeSo where have you been for the last hundred years?â
        âoeTen years to me. We went to Grommler.â
        âoeWhere's that?â
        Dave laughed. "It orbits Sirius, but it was the least serious place I've ever seen! Really weird place.â
        âoeWeird how?â
        âoeEvery way weird goes. First off, there was no fauna at all, not even insects. Only flora, despite having more oxygen than Earth. The geologists said it was because of the CO2 from volcanoes that there could even be any flora.
        âoeBut the weirdest was the plants. We were there for two years, and that's in real time, and every single plant the biologists tested had cannabinoids and other psychoactive components. There were a lot of brush fires because of the wind and lightning, so every time you went outside you got stoned. Hell, some of the guys practically lived outside!â
        âoeNeed another beer?â
        Dave eyed his glass and downed it. âoeYeah. Jesus, Joe, things sure changed in the last ten years.â
        âoeIt's been a hundred years since you left, Dave. It only seems like ten to you.â
        âoeI guess. But you know what, Joe? I'm going to clean up!â
        âoeWhat do you mean?â
        Dave pulled out an envelope. âoeThese. Grommlerian tomato seeds. Grommlerian plants have a completely different ordering than our plants, it's something different than DNA and the scientists are still trying to figure it out. But they make seeds like Earth plants.â
        âoeTomatoes?â
        âoeNot really. They look like tomatoes but taste way different, but they taste really good. And they get you really stoned.â
        âoeWell, okay, you found a reefer planet. When you find a beer planet, let me know.â

User Journal

Journal: Missed Deadlines 1

Journal by mcgrew

I "finished" writing Mars, Ho! early in the summer, and since it became a horror story I was aiming to publish it by Halloween. Well, that didn't happen.

I wanted it to be done by then so it would show up in bookstores by Thanksgiving. I still had hopes of getting it at least for sale on my web site by then, especially since a fan wrote with news he was planning to buy several copies as gifts.

It doesn't look like that will happen, either. I just finished making the changes I'd made in the second printed copy (the first goes to my daughter Patty, the second to Dewey, who stirred the muse) and sent off for a third. It will be a couple weeks before it shows up on my porch, and if there are no more changes, which is doubtful, it would be at least another week before I cleared it for publication.

I'll be lucky if it's for sale this year. I'm frustrated.

Oh, well. I'm not in it for the money, just for the satisfaction of writing novels and actually have people read them. It's a good thing I'm not in it for the money because I'm barely breaking even, after copyright registration, ISBNs, and buying copies, many of which are marked up in pencil, not completely edited, and not for sale.

However, even though I'm not in it for the money, I'm still planning to sell the e-book on Amazon. If I got on their best seller list it would get more people reading, and many might read other of my books from the web site. Mars, Ho!'s HTML and PDF will still be free. Few are downloading the free e-books of the first two books, most are either reading it online or downloading the single HTML file.

Anyway, I guess I'm on vacation again... oh, wait, there's Random Scribblings.

User Journal

Journal: Amazon's Hachette fight 7

Journal by mcgrew

I ran across an interesting opinion piece in Vox while going through Google News today. The piece is by Matthew Yglesias. What made me sit up and take notice is that he's on Amazon's side in the Hachette fight.

What's interesting is that his piece got published at all, considering that (as he notes) the newspaper, movie, music, and book publishers are all owned by the same big corporations.

I mostly agree with him, but not about everything. He writes:

In the traditional book purchasing paradigm, when a reader bought a book at the store there were two separate layers of middlemen taking a cut of the cash before money reached the author: a retailer and a publisher. The publisher, in this paradigm, was doing very real work as part of the value-chain. A typed and printed book manuscript looks nothing like a book. Transforming the manuscript into a book and then arranging for it to be shipped in appropriate quantities to physical stores around the country is a non-trivial task. What's more, neither bookstore owners nor authors have any expertise in this field.

Digital publishing is not like that. Transforming a writer's words into a readable e-book product can be done with a combination of software and a minimal amount of training. Book publishers do not have any substantial expertise in software development, but Amazon and its key competitors (Apple, Google, and the B&B/Microsoft partnership) do.

My "manuscripts" are exactly like the printed books. I upload a PDF and they print it.

But publishers aren't just middlemen who only offer publicity, as I've found out from experience. The publisher has editors and proofreaders, and this aspect is (at least for me) the hardest part of writing a book.

What's more, a self-published physical book is far more expensive than a book published by someone like Doubleday. I can get a copy of Andy Weir's The Martian at Barnes and Noble cheaper than I can get a copy of one of my own books from the printer.

He also seems to agree with everyone that physical books will go away. I used to think so, too, but reality changed my mind. I used to think that old fogeys like me were the only ones who prefer dead trees to electrons.

First was my 28 year old daughter, who when she saw the physical copy of Nobots exclaimed "My dad wrote a book. And it's a REAL book!"

Second was sales. Most people read my books for free on my web site, but far more people buy them than download them, and far more download the PDF or single file HTML than the e-book version.

I also discovered that people highly value books that were signed by the author. When a Felbers patron bought a paperback copy of Nobots (I have a box of them in my car's trunk), the first thing he did was ask me to sign it.

How can an author sign an e-book? I do what printmakers do and sign in pencil, because pencil is far harder to fake than ink.

But I agree with him on Amazon vs e-book publishers. E-books from publishers are way, way too expensive, and there's no reason whatever why an e-book should cost fifteen bucks. As he notes, there is almost no cost at all for making another copy of an e-book.

User Journal

Journal: Random Scribblings 1

Journal by mcgrew

While I'm waiting for the corrected copy of Mars, Ho! to show up I've been working on another, Random Scribblings. It's a compilation of garbage I've littered the internet with for almost twenty years.

I'm having problems, though. There is a lot of stuff I've written that just doesn't exist any more, like my "Weak End Hell Hole" column I wrote for Arcadia. I can't find Arcadia at archive.org at all and saved none of the columns. There's stuff I could have sworn I'd saved but can't find on my hard drives.

But there's stuff I don't even remember. I do remember that I wrote 17 front page stories at K5 a decade ago, but I don't remember what they all were.

If you've been reading my stuff for years and have a favorite article, let me know and I'll put it in the book. That is, if I can find it.

User Journal

Journal: Number Two 5

Journal by mcgrew

The first printed copy of Mars, Ho! came a couple of weeks ago, and I've gone through it marking it up five times. This morning I made the changes in the version on my computer and ordered a corrected copy. I'll have it in about ten days.

I'm hopeful I'll be satisfied with it. There were actually few changes and most were minor, like a missing opening quote and end smart single quotes where apostrophes should have been.

The cover was hosed. Damned Microsoft. I'd exported a high resolution cover from GIMP to JPG, and loaded it into Windows Paint since GIMP's handling of text is primitive and frustrating.

What came out of Paint looked fine on the screen, but printed it was a pixellated mess. So I used Lulu's also frustrating cover generator to add the title and author. This one should be okay.

I'm trying hard to get it done in time for Christmas, but I want it to be right. I'm still hopeful.

I had planned on only fans being able to get printed copies, but as Benjie said, "the best laid plans of mice..."

I tried to go to the "private" URL on my phone and got a 404. All the ways I can think of to alleviate this involve too much work and hassle and possible cash outlays. So I guess anybody will be able to get it from my site or at Lulu, but only the eBook will be on Amazon.

Site stats have been fascinating and puzzling me. I'm getting more visitors from Russia than anywhere, and they're coming from Russian language sites. Strange. Quite a few from the Ukraine, as well, they're #3 in the list of countries right behind the US. A few are coming from game sites, and some from porn sites. Weird.

In any case, I guess I'm on vacation for a week or two until the next copy shows up on my porch.

User Journal

Journal: Scientist says white is black 18

Journal by mcgrew

The British rag The Daily Mail has been coming up in Google News with the above linked story.

It is incredibly faulty; it's propaganda. The headline screams "The terrible truth about cannabis: Expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless".

In the first place, no drug is harmless. Few things in existence are completely harmless, in fact. Even something necessary for life, like water, can be dangerous. Unlike marijuana, you can actually overdose on water. People have died from drinking too much water, nobody has died from smoking too much pot.

"Is pot harmless?" is not only the wrong question, it's a stupid question. So lets look at this fellow's "20 year study" and at the fellow's credentials.

Is he a neuroscientist? Biochemist? Physician?

No. Wikipedia says that Wayne Denis Hall a psychologist. As such, he's no more qualified to study the dangers of drugs than I am. Lets look at the claims, with the most stupid first, that the Mail repeats..

"If cannabis is not addictive then neither is heroin or alcohol."

This is just not incorrect, it's WRONG and irresponsible. Apparently Professor Hall has never seen an alcoholic going through withdrawal, but I have. It's horrible; the addict goes through not just psychological terror, seeing snakes and spiders on them, it is physically painful and can cause seizures. Withdrawal from heroin or alcohol can be fatal.

Marijuana's "addiction" is psychological only; unlike heroin, alcohol, or coffee, there are no physical withdrawal effects. Marijuana is more like orange juice than alcohol. Get drunk every day for a year and quit and you could die.

Get stoned while drinking orange juice every night, and when it's gone quitting both will be similar, although you'll miss pot more.

If pot is as addictive as heroin, why don't potheads steal to support their habits, like almost all heroin addicts do?

The world has too many drug addicts as it is, and statements like these from a scientist will lead people to believe that heroin and cocaine are as harmless as marijuana.

One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it

That's likely true. Marijuana is, in fact, dangerous to teens. It has been shown to interrupt the development of the adolescent brain. Kids shouldn't smoke pot, but unfortunately it's easier for a teenager to get pot than it is for an adult. And every pot smoker I know who started as a kid is in poverty. Kids, stay away from it until you're 19 or preferably older.

We can dismiss adolescent pot use, it is obviously harmful.

Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia

Yes, there is a correlation between mental illness and all psychoactive drugs, but the causation goes the other way. There were schizophrenic kids in my neighborhood when I grew up, all were obviously batshit insane, and all wound up on drugs later.

One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs

Again, the "dependance" is little worse than orange juice and nowhere near as bad as coffee. As to leading to harder drugs, this is the fault of prohibition. "Got any weed, man?"

"No, I'm out. Want some coke?"

This problem goes away with legalization, as Colorado has shown.

Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink

Well, duh. I grin at the "increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink".

I'll also note that unlike drinking, when you're high you don't WANT to drive a car. You're far less likely to get behind the wheel after a couple of joints than after a couple of shots of whiskey.

He also states that taking the drug while pregnant can reduce the weight of a baby, and long-term use raises the risk of cancer, bronchitis and heart attack.

Smoking anything does increase the danger of various lung diseases, but a study a few years ago baffled the researchers who did the study; the results were the opposite of what they expected. They studied four groups of geezers -- long term pot smokers, cigarette smokers, people who smoked both and nonsmokers.

They expected twice the cancers in pot smokers than nonsmokers and twice the cancers in smokers of both than cigarettes alone. However, the data showed that pot smokers actually had fewer cancers than nonsmokers (although statistically insignificant) and smokers of both had half the cancers than those who only smoked cigarettes.

Rather than causing cancer, pot may actually prevent it.

This sort of sensationalist bullshit is why so many people distrust science. This fellow is a psychologist who mostly studies adolescents. Yes, kids and pregnant women shouldn't smoke pot, or anything else. But we should legalize it for adults, partly to keep it out of kids' hands.

User Journal

Journal: Watch your language, young man!

Journal by mcgrew

Please excuse me, but I'm inebriated. Blame typos on beer and reefer, without which this story probably wouldn't have been written.

Sober edit: this journal is also here where the unicode works properly. Who would have thought a one year old could kick a teenager's ass?
        âoeWild Bill! Damn, what a surprise! Why didn't you call?â
        âoeBecause then it wouldn't have been a surprise! Give me a Newcastle, I haven't had a beer in nine months! How've you been, you old pirate killer?â
        âoeI'm doing great, just graduated business school two months ago. The bar is doing real good, and Destiny and her team have almost finished building that new kind of telescope. You sure you want Newcastle?â
        âoeHuh? Your Newcastle went bad?â
        âoeHere, you old asshole, have one of mine on the house,â John said, pouring from a tapper to a beer mug. âoeTell me what you think. There's nothing wrong with my Newcastle stock but I'll bet you won't want Newcastle after you try this.â
        Bill eyed the mug warily. âoeImport?â He took a sip. âoePretty good!â He took another sip. âoeYou were right! This is some damned good beer. What country was it imported from?â
        âoeMars, you asshole. I built a microbrewery here. At least, it started as a microbrewery, it's a lot bigger now. Hell, I'm exporting it to Earth.â
        âoeWhat? Bullshit, you're full of shit, you old bulshitter. Come on, you can't bullshit a bullshitter. After shipping it would cost ten times what Newcastle cost!â
        âoeYep, just like Newcastle is ten times what Captain Hooker's cost here.â
        âoeForgswaggle!â
        âoeYoung man!â an old woman at the other end of the bar admonished, âoeWatch your fucking language, asshole!â
        Bill turned red as a beet. âoeOh shit, I'm sorry, Ma'am, I didn't see you down there, I thought just John and me was here.â
        âoeWell, just watch it, dickhead.â
        âoeYes ma'am.â He turned back to John.
        âoeBut who in the hell is buying it?â
        âoeWho do you think? People who eat pork.â
        âoeDamn, you must be doing good. What's with that giant framed picture of a guy in an eigtheenth century pirate costume with a parrot on his shoulder and playing a guitar?â
        âoeIt's a photo of an old blues guy centuries ago, John Lee Hooker, with the pirate stuff added in a computer.â
        âoeYour last run. The one with all them damned pirates. Now I get it. Damn, that was pretty scary. I didn't think I'd make it back to Mars. At least, until the fleet reached me. You were pretty far ahead...â
        âoeWell, DUH, you were on batteries.â
        âoeYeah, the pirates showed up right when the fleet did. I thought I'd get boarded. Scared the fognart out of me!â
        âoeYOUNG MAN!!!â
        âoeOops, shit, I forgot. I'm sorry, maam.â
        âoeSpew shit out of your mouth again, young man, and I'm kicking your God damned ass.â
        âoeSorry, ma'am.â
        âoeFuck you.â
        He turned back to John, his red face a little less red. âoeHey, sell me a half dozen kegs. I have to go back to Saturn and that's a long damned way.â
        âoeSorry, Bill, I ain't gonna do it.â
        âoeWhat?? What the fuck, John?â
        âoeSorry, Bill, but I lost too many friends already, damn them fucking pirates. I almost lost Gus thanks to my stupidity and I'll be damned if I'm going to be responsible for your dying. I ain't got enough friends to lose any more, especially you.â
        âoeJohn, what in the blagsphorth are...â
        âoeYOUNG MAN!!!â
        âoeOops, fuck, I'm sorry, maam. I keep forgetting.â
        âoeJust watch your fucking mouth, boy.â
        âoeYes, maam. John, what the FUCK are you talking about?â
        âoeI'm talking about Gus. I almost killed him!â
        âoeGus? Blagforth...â
        âoeYOUNG MAN! I'm not listening to this garbage!â The old woman stomped out.
        âoeBlagforth forgnart, Bill, that's one of my best patrons, spends a fortune getting blagforthfaced in here.â
        âoeGee, John, I don't want to cause you any lost business...â
        âoeGarp that old crant,â John said. âoeIt's a fognarth fucking bar. If she don't want to hear vulgar language she can drink somewhere else.â
        âoeWhy won't you sell me that beer?â
        âoeI told you, because of Gus. I almost killed him.â
        âoeWhat the fognarth are you talking about?â
        âoeGus came through about six months ago or so. I hadn't seen him in a long damned time, he hadn't had any Martian runs. Anyway, he wanted beer, Loved my Captain Hooker's Pale Ale...â
        âoeWhat am I drinking?â
        âoeLager. Anyway, he wanted fifteen barrels. I didn't think nothing of it, but he was drunk on his approach to Mars and the God damned pirates, as few as there are left, almost got him. I almost killed Gus and I'll be damned if I'm going to kill you!â
        âoeFognarth blagsphorth, John, you fucking asshole. Yeah, you shouldn't have sold beer to Gus. Shit, that asshole is an alcoholic. What the fucking blagsphorth is wrong with you, asshole? Jesus, John. You're a fucking moron.â
        âoeWell, garp, I guess you're not Gus. Okay, I'll sell you the garping beer, motherfucker. But God damned fognarth, you better not garping die!â

User Journal

Journal: The Forgetful Internet 3

Journal by mcgrew

Since I can't do anything about the new book until the printed copy arrives this coming week I decided to work on a couple I've been thinking about.

One is a yet untitled tome that will be a compilation of short science fiction stories. Since I only have five so far, this one will be a while.

The other is a compilation of articles and stuff I've posted on the internet, and there's a LOT of it. The trouble is, I can't find much of it. I probably could if I could remember the articles' names. There were about 20 that hit K5's front page way back when it mattered, but I can only think of a few.

I'll probably have to visit archive.org to find anything from mcgrew.info.

It's working title has been "Random Scribblings" for a while, but I may call it "Garbage I've littered the internet with".

I thought of my old Quake site I'd kept on CD; some of my oldest stuff. I'd put the whole thing on this little notebook, thinking about progress because there wasn't a desktop computer anywhere when it was live that could have held the whole thing; I had a huge site.

I got sucked into my own old web site! Crazy humor, even wilder than I am today. We were all wilder then, though.

I had a running gag called the "Ticket to Nowhere". It was a web site contest. What you had to do to enter was to have a Quake or gaming site I knew about that laid dormant for a while. The last one to update their site won. The prize was a first class no expense paid Ticket to Nowhere!

I started pasting them into an Oo document, and hell, there's 10,000 words pasted already and it doesn't have everything, just the funniest stuff and it's only a few months worth of postings out of 4 or 5 years (I started it in 1998 and abandoned it in 2002, but 1998 was sparse and the last year I kept the ticket myself).

It might wind up being a book itself.

While I was sucked into my own damned stuff I'd forgotten about, I was reminded of a couple of other sites I contributed to, and if any of that is discoverable at all, it won't be easy to find. I may not even find it at archive.org; there is no trace of "Kneel" Harriot's "Yello, There!" except for one page I mirrored on my site that archive.org kept.

We had been fans of each other's sites, while neither of us knew the other was a fan until I posted something about his site on mine. He was British, and I love crazy British humour even if they spell it funny. We exchanged many an email. Unfortunately not only did his site pass away, he did, too. The last email I got from him he was in a wheelchair, and had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for years. It finally got him.

It was another of his sites that I posted to (after much begging from him; it seemed everyone wanted to post my stuff). I ran a weekly column called "The Weak End Hell Hole". I doubt any of them still exist anywhere, and I'll bet there was some good stuff there.

The idea that when something's on the internet it's there forever is complete bullshit. The internet DOES forget.

User Journal

Journal: I love you folks! 1

Journal by mcgrew

I got an email this morning from a fellow who wanted a link to buy a printed copy of Mars, Ho! In it, he said he wanted to buy copies as gifts, so now I'm chomping at the bit even more wanting to get it out -- CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

There is as yet no link, which won't exist until I publish. I have no idea what it will be, as it won't be on my site. But this sort of thing makes my day, and it happens almost daily. If you were modded up this morning, thank yourself. That email put me in such a good mood I didn't issue a single downmod, and I usually give out one or two.

It's a good thing I didn't have points yesterday, visits to the dentist never puts anyone in a good mood.

But Wednesday was even better than today. As I got a beer, someone was reading the bar copy of Nobots (I wrote part of it there) and chuckling. I took my beer out to the beer garden, and one fellow was raving about both my books to another fellow, and eagerly asked me when the next one will be out.

This is one of the most emotionally rewarding things I've ever done. I love you folks!

User Journal

Journal: Time flies like an error 12

Journal by mcgrew

The breakthrough was not in physics itself, but in mathematics. The new insights led physicists to see physics in a new light, and it wasn't long before they were experimenting with the equations, which seemed to indicate that it might be possible to instantly transport an object to anywhere in the universe.
        It was a quarter century before a machine using the new understandings that actually did anything at all had any result, and the result was completely unexpected.
        The apparatus was set up and turned on. A mouse seemed to come from nowhere, scurrying across the room as mice do. One of the participants shrieked, startled, but no one saw a connection between their experiment, which had seemingly failed yet again, and the unexpected intruder.
        âoeLets try it again,â a grad student suggested. Doctor Phillips laughed, and said âoeDoing the same thing the same way and expecting it to work is insane.â
        âoeI'm not suggesting we do it exactly the same way. Lets try a higher voltage.â
        âoeWell, voltage is one part of the equation that's a little fuzzy. Same wattage, or raise voltage and leave amperage alone?â
        âoeWe could try both.â
        âoeGo ahead, but I'm not expecting any different results.â
        The student set the experiment back up, doubled the input voltage, and turned the device on. A large wild boar appeared in the room close to the wall. They all ran in fright, closed the door, and called animal control. Animal control caught the hog, which was taken to the municipal zoo.

        Gabriel Watkins had a different job to do today than yesterday; his mule would get a break from the plowing. There was a wild boar that was upsetting his animals and would be trampling his fields and eating his produce if he didn't do anything. He had a pig to hunt, kill, butcher, and eat.
        It was otherwise a normal morning like any other. He read The Spectator and drank coffee as his wife prepared breakfast. The newspaper was talking about the new president, James Monroe. It also spoke of the nation's newest state, Maine. Everyone had expected that for weeks, since the Missouri Compromise had been signed. Missouri was sure to become a state soon.
        After he finished his breakfast he loaded all three of his muskets and both of his pistols, told his wife he would be back before lunch and set off towards the woods.
        The boar wasn't hard to find. He raised his musket, aimed â" and the animal disappeared before his eyes. He scratched his head, and the woods themselves disappeared, replaced with mowed grass and brick buildings.

        Officer Oscar Jobs of the SIU campus police department was shocked. A heavily armed man was on the campus! He drew his weapon and ordered the man to drop his weapons and get on the ground. This was especially disturbing, since all of law enforcement was on high alert because the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon had been destroyed that morning.
        Oscar was greatly relieved when the suspect complied.
        Because of the terrorism, the news of the armed man on campus didn't even hit the Edwardsville Intelligencer, let alone the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

        âoeThis is the strangest case I've ever seen,â Dr. Wilson said to Dr. Kent. âoeThe man is obviously suffering from schizophrenia, and the type of schizophrenia isn't that uncommon. What's weird is that his whole persona, and not just the fantasy in his mind, all corroborate. He swears that he was born in 1780, that he's a thirty one year old farmer and it's spring of 1821. He was wearing antique clothing from the era and carrying antique firearms; front loading muskets. All of the antiques were in excellent shape for their age, almost two hundred years old. He claims to have owned the muzzle loading weapons for a decade.
        âoeReally strange. Anyway, Haldol isn't having any effect except to put him to sleep. I've hit a brick wall. Any suggestions?â

        They didn't repeat the experiment for another year to allow the theorists to scratch their heads and do calculations. It was, as it often is, one of the graduate students who was close to writing his doctoral thesis who found the answer, or what appeared to be the answer. Rather than sending objects away from the device, it brought them closer to it. They changed some circuitry and repeated it.
        It failed spectacularly.

        âoeDr. Wilson, your patient has escaped.â
        âoeWhat? When? How?â
        âoeWe just discovered him missing and we're faced with a mystery. Everything was properly secured, none of the guards saw anything, the cameras trained on the doors saw nothing. He just disappeared into thin air.â
        âoeThat poor man! I hope he's okay until he gets picked up again.â
        âoeThere's more, it gets even weirder. His clothing was laying on the bed, laid out like someone laying there but he hadn't stuffed them with anything, and I just got a call that all of his antiques are missing, and nothing else from storage was gone. No sign of forced entry, the door was locked when they went to do inventory."

        It was two o'clock, and Emma was worried. Her husband was still gone, and fearing for him went in search. She was afraid that the boar, or perhaps some other animal, might have gotten the best of him.
        She found him at the edge of the woods, naked and sleeping, with his clothing and other belongings scattered around him. She almost didn't recognize him; his beard was gone and his hair was clipped short, but she saw the scar on his leg. He had thought he would lose that leg, but God had been good to them.
        She touched his cheek and he woke up.
        âoeEmma? Where am I? Where are my clothes? What am I doing here? Dear Jesus, I had the strangest dream!â
        âoeAre you all right, Gabe?â
        âoeI don't know. The strangest thing... where is my clothing?â
        âoeScattered all around you. What happened to your beard and hair?â
        He touched his face. âoeDear sweet Jesus, Emma, it had to be that damned witch!â
        âoeAlice?â
        âoeWho else? You know that old crone hates me and it's the only explanation. Emma, she somehow transported me to some sort of magical but evil place. I don't know how I got back. I was in some sort of prison and went to sleep, and when you woke me up I was here, not far from where I was when... Oh, good Lord, this is terrible!â He started getting dressed and gathering his belongings. âoeWe need to see the sheriff. That witch needs to hang!â
        âoeWhat did you see?â
        âoeWell, I had the hog in my sights and he flat out just disappeared without a trace. Then everything else was gone and I was somewhere else and a man with what looked like a weapon of some sort, although it wasn't like any gun I ever saw ordered me to drop my guns and get on the ground, and I did.
        âoeHe tied my hands behind my back with some sort of metal thing and put me in a really strange thing, made of what looked like painted metal but really shiny, on four black wheels that didn't look anything like any wheel I've ever seen. The thing had seats. He got in it in front of me, did some things, and it started moving! All by itself! And really fast, faster than I've seen anything go.
        âoeAnd then he talked into a small black thing and it answered!
        âoeThey put ink on my fingers, rubbed them on paper, and flashed something in my face. Then they put me in a tiny stone room with a steel door.
        âoeThen they took me, with their witchy magic things, to another place, some sort of jail where they pretended to be nice. There was lots more magic, a crystal ball that showed moving pictures and had sound, it was really weird.
        âoeThen they filled me with magic potions that dulled my mind and made me sleep. Someone they called a doctor, some woman, kept asking me stupid questions almost every day.
        âoeThen one night I went to sleep and you woke me up here. We need to talk to the preacher and the sheriff, that witch needs to die!

        It took another century for the theorists to figure it out. The mistake they had made was not realizing that time and space are inseparable; that there is no difference, that time is just another dimension.

        The sheriff said there was nothing he could legally do, but Alice Chalmers was hung by a lynch mob on May 12, 1821. No one was charged with or prosecuted for her murder.

User Journal

Journal: Moroned Off Vesta 3

Journal by mcgrew

John's first patron of the day was waiting at the door when he approached.
        "Roger!" he said as he unlocked the door. "I haven't seen you in years! Want a beer? My stuff is pretty damned good if I do say so myself, and it's a lot cheaper than the imported stuff."
        "Sure," he said. John poured a beer and handed it to him. He took a sip. "Not bad, John. So you're tending bar now? I heard the shipping company fired you for that thing on Vesta. They said you killed a couple of guys."
        John laughed. "Tending bar? It's my bar! Fired me? The president and the CEO both tried to talk me out of retiring, but my wife's building a telescope here. Time for me to settle down, I'm tired of pirates and all that other bullshit."
        "Yeah, I heard you married a scientist."
        "So what have you been up to, Rog?"
        Roger laughed. "Well, I've been waiting for you to open for an hour most lately, it's been almost a year since I had a beer. I've had a bunch of Saturn runs and a Vesta assignment the last couple of years and haven't been to Mars in a long time, but when I got back from Vesta they sent me here with a load of barley and hops and stuff like that. Did you buy all of that?"
        "Yeah, that's my shipment. I told you I'm making beer, didn't you see the sign? I have a microbrewery here, that's all beer ingredients. So how do you like it?"
        "It's good beer, you're pretty good at it. So they begged you not to retire? When I was on Vesta unloading some food supplies they told me that you got fired for killing two passengers. Did that happen?"
        John laughed. "No, not only did they not fire me, I got a raise. And yeah, two stupid rich tourists died but it was their own stupidity, arrogance, and sense of entitlement that killed them, not me."
        "So what happened?"
        "Well, I was taking scientific equipment to Vesta and a couple of the other asteroid stations in the belt, and I had two first class passengers. A couple of assholes from Austin who were born rich and got richer speculating on the stock market. Idiots who couldn't learn because they thought they knew everything."
        "Yeah," Roger said, "Texas is damned weird, I lived in Houston for a while when I was a kid. Everybody wore those stupid looking hats and acted like they were all ranchers or something. History class was filled with Sam Houston, the Alamo, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's been a museum for a couple hundred years now."
        "Yeah, that's those two morons to a tee. Drug store cowboys, all hat and no cattle. Probably couldn't tell a cow from a horse and thought milk came from factories.
        "All they did was bitch and complain and break rules. They hated the coffee I made for them, and my coffee's pretty good, lots better than robots did then. I'm glad they upgraded those robots, I always made coffee for passengers because the robot coffee was barely drinkable.
        "They complained about the pork, what would I know about pork? Hell, I wasn't rich, I was just a boat captain. I only ate pork a couple of times in my life before I met Destiny. There wasn't anything I could have done about the pork but they bitched about it every damned day even though the cookbots did damned good on everything else but barbecue. Oh, they complained their asses off about the barbecue, too."
        "They're crazy about barbecue in Texas," Roger said. "Some folks there eat it every day. I've seen them barbecue eggs! They're always bragging about how big everything is in Texas, too."
        "Yeah, they bitched about how âdinkyâ(TM) their cabin was. Hell, my whole damned houseboat would probably have fit in their living room and it's a big houseboat. Crappy trip, the only good thing was they were paying for full gravity so it didn't take very long to get there.
        "Anyway, these guys liked reading old science fiction, really ancient stuff. They'd run across a short story called Marooned Off Vesta, and when Vesta ordered supplies from one of their companies they decided to buy tickets and ride along.
        "These dumbasses wanted to recreate the damned story!"
        "What was the story about?"
        "Well, it starts with..." Another patron entered. "Gus Harrison! How about that!" John said.
        Roger grinned. "What are you doing in a bar this time of morning, old man? I haven't seen you in years, either."
        Gus laughed. "You're the one with a beer in front of you. I just got back from Europa and haven't had a beer in months. What do you have, John?"
        "Pretty much everything, but my best seller is my own stuff."
        "John makes some damned good beer," Roger said. "I like it better than imported. Give me another one, John."
        "Yeah, I'll try one," said Gus. "So what have you guys been doing?"
        "John's been telling space stories. He was telling me about some morons off Vesta."
        "Yeah, like I was telling Roger, two annoying rich tourists wanted to recreate an ancient story some Russian guy wrote a few hundred years ago. It starts with three guys who have just survived a collision with an asteroid that destroyed most of the ship and killed everyone else."
        "I think I read that," Gus said. "Marooned Off Vesta?"
        "Yeah, that's the one."
        "He wasn't Russian, he was American, Isaac Asimov. He emigrated to the United States with his parents from Russia when he was three. Rog, in the book one of the three guys puts on a space suit, crawls around the outside of the ship and blasts the ship's water tank with a laser or something and the water shoots out and puts them on Vesta where they're rescued by its science station. So what happened on your trip, John?"
        "Well, these morons thought the guys in the story could have just jumped from orbit and landed on Vesta and decided to prove it."
        "What?" Gus and Roger exclaimed in unison.
        "That's just stupid," Gus added.
        "No shit," John replied. Well, they found out the hard way."
        "How did they get outside the boat?" Roger asked. "We keep everything like storage locked away from passengers."
        "They hacked the lock with some kind of gizmo they bought on the black market. It was really damned sophisticated, it kept the alarm quiet and the warning light dark."
        "Son of a bitch," Gus said, "The stupid bastards dealt with pirates? They're lucky they lived long enough to buy the tickets. So they suffocated out there after they ran out of air?"
        "No, worse. It was bad. I discovered it half an hour after they were floating outside and the meteor alarm went off. Lucky they wasn't able to unhook that alarm, or it really would have been like that story, only we'd all have died. There wasn't time to rescue the morons so I got the hell out of the way of the rocks. When the storm passed I went back into orbit and retrieved what little of them that was left, and delivered the cargo and the dead morons to the landing boat from the station."
        "Almost wrecked your ship, did they?" Roger said.
        "Yeah. I was moroned off Vesta."

I was thinking about shopping his out to various science fiction magazines, then remembered all the ones I bought when I was young. I realized that there was no way any story with John and his friends and their "colorful language" was going to published in a "family magazine" so I decided to go ahead and post it here. I hacked most of it out this morning.

Marooned Off Vesta was Isaac Asimov's first published story, appearing in the pulp fiction magazine Amazing Stories in 1939.

The magazine stopped publication in 2005. It was reborn as a free web magazine at the above link in 2012. It's where I found the link to the Asimov story.

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid

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